Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Lord of Glory (Sermon)

Sermon Title:
The Lord of Glory

Sermon Text:
Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God'; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.
(John 8:54-49, NASB)

Sermon Proposition:
The identity of the person of Jesus Christ is at the very heart of our entire Christian faith, and those who compromise or reject the biblical truth on this issue do so at great risk to the state of their eternal souls.

Bible translations used:
AMP – Amplified Bible
ESV – English Standard Version
NASB – New American Standard Bible
NWT – New World Translation

First of all, I would like to ask you all two questions. My first question is this: How many of you here have had encounters with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-Day Saints or other cultic groups? Raise your hands if you have.

(Wait for people to raise hands)

All right, that’s cool. I’ve had some encounters with some of them myself. In fact, over the summer last year I’ve had extended conversations with a Jehovah’s Witness who lives in my apartment building, and I’ve been able to procure several copies of their Watchtower magazine. Now, you don’t have to answer my second question out loud, but try to sort the question out in your own minds. The question is: Why is it that we reject fellowship with Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians and other such groups even though they profess to be Christians?

(Wait three seconds)

Now, you could point to various errors that they teach, but I would contend that the primary heresy these groups have that becomes the source of most their other errors is in their fundamentally flawed idea of who Jesus Christ is. The Church of the Latter-Day Saints believes that Jesus is a deified man, just one among many celestial gods. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that He is the archangel Michael; the greatest of God’s creations, but nonetheless only a creation. Still, the Unitarians believe that He is a great moral teacher, but is not substantially equal to the Father. And I understand that this is a very pluralistic society, so it is tempting to downplay these things and pretend that it doesn’t really matter. I mean, we can all agree to disagree, right? Well, if we are to proclaim the gospel of God, we simply cannot take that kind of attitude.

What I propose to you, brothers and sisters, is that the identity of the person of Jesus Christ is at the very heart of our entire Christian faith, and those who compromise or reject the biblical truth on this issue do so at great risk to the state of their eternal souls. The Lord Jesus Himself suggests this all throughout the scriptures, and especially in the Gospel of John. In fact, this affirmation of who Christ is appears right in the beginning of that Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3, ESV) Just prior to the passage that was recited for us, Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24, ESV).

Now, here is a helpful little piece of trivia: There is really no “He” in that passage. Jesus is actually saying, “For unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins.” This parallels verse 58 where He says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” For those who are not familiar with this reference, it is an allusion to Exodus 3:14, wherein God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' (NASB). Now, those who deny that Jesus is God in the flesh would try to mistranslate John 8:58 to obscure the obvious. For example, if you’ve ever gotten your hands on the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation, you will find that they will make Jesus say “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been” (NWT). They also mistranslate Exodus 3:14 by making God say, “I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE.” (NWT). Makes no sense now, does it? If, however, you were able to check John 8:58 in the original Greek and compared it with the Greek Septuagint translation of Exodus 3:14, you’ll find out that they use the exact same phrase: εγω ειμι, I AM. Besides, look at how the Jews respond to Him: “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:59, NASB). If there was no connection between what Jesus says in verse 58 and the “I am” statement in Exodus 3:14, then the response of the Jews would no longer make any sense in its context. This shows the futility of any attempt to escape the implications of Jesus’ clear statements concerning who He is and where He has come from.

And by the way, there are a few I am statements that appear in the synoptic gospels as well. For example, Jesus in the trial before the Sanhedrin, when asked if He is the son of God, says "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62, ESV). In the gospel of Luke, the statement is shortened to “It is just as you say; I AM.” (Luke 22:70, AMP). In both cases, the phrase for “I am” is the exact same phrase, εγω ειμι. This is significant, because no other character in the entire Bible utilizes the phrase “I am” in this exact same way. Anytime any other character in the bible says “I am…”, it is either phrased differently (such as in 1 Corinthians 15:10) or it is stated in such a way that it is obvious that the person in question is making no claims to deity (such as in 1 Timothy 1:15). This is significant, for how does the Sanhedrin respond to Jesus’ statements? They responded: “‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers received Him with slaps in the face” (Mark 14:63-65, NASB).

Thus we see that these cults who deny that Jesus is truly God fall into the same fatal error that the Jewish people fell into back in Jesus’ own day. For unless we confess, as the apostle Thomas did, that Jesus Christ is “our Lord and our God” (John 20:28, paraphrased), how can His propitiatory sacrifice on the cross be infinitely sufficient to cover over all of our sins? See, our Soteriology hangs totally on our Christology (I’m assuming that you all still remember what those two terms mean): For Jesus to save us, He must be truly God, as well as truly man; otherwise His death cannot be sufficient to save us. This is not a minor issue. This is not theological nitpicking. This is at the very heart of the gospel, for the One who was nailed upon the tree, we proclaim to be “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13). Without this critical proclamation of the divinity of Jesus Christ, we shall be left without any gospel of grace at all.

And it is for this reason that we confess, in the words of the great Nicene Creed, that: "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.” So, here I stand, I can do no other. Jesus Christ is the Lord of Glory, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. I stake my eternal destiny on Him, and I would dare not compromise on this great biblical truth. To those who deny this, or would think of even deserting this great confession of ours, it should suffice to point out the warning that Paul gave to the Galatians against those who would dare to pervert the Gospel: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to and different from that which we preached to you, let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)! As we said before, so I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel different from or contrary to that which you received [from us], let him be accursed…” (Galatians 1:8-9, AMP).

Maranatha, our Lord Jesus come. Amen!

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